I’ve always been intrigued by Lev Manovich’s concept of “perfect vision.” He believes the perfectness of computer-generated images points to our cyborg future, one where our imperfect human bodies will be augmented with techno-sight. Manovich writes:
The synthetic image is free of the limitations of both human and camera vision. It can have unlimited resolution and an unlimited level of detail. It is free of the depth-of-field effect, this inevitable consequence of the lens, so everything is in focus. It is also free of grain — the layer of noise created by film stock and by human perception. Its colors are more saturated and its sharp lines follow the economy of geometry. From the point of view of human vision it is hyperreal. And yet, it is completely realistic. It is simply a result of a different, more perfect than human, vision.
Which brings me to New York’s West Side Highway.
Alongside and overlooking the running path, there is a huge billboard, an ad for Rockstar’s new Grand Theft Auto IV. It’s hard to miss, not only because of its size, but because of just how “realistic” the image seems. It’s very similar to the image above, marked with incredible detail, seen here in the sun’s shadows, the wrinkles both in the jacket and the hands.
At first glance this image is almost a bit jarring, because it’s exactly as Manovich describes — it’s both hyperreal and real simultaneously. And this aesthetic of cyborg vision is increasingly used in the media we encounter in our daily lives. Ever notice just how much ABC’s Monday Night Football looks like EA’s Madden?
If we think of the way we embody technologies, the “realness” of the computer image may not be that far-fetched. We can think of eyeglasses or contact lenses as a relatively simple way of “taking on” technologies — we see through the glasses, and our vision seems “real” and “perfect,” even though without them, it is not. As technology advances, is it not feasible that one day we may have ways to embody visual aids that free our sight from “noise” and “grain”? Steve Mann’s EyeTap technology may already be there:
EyeTap is a device which allows, in a sense, the eye itself to function as both a display and a camera. EyeTap is at once the eye piece that displays computer information to the user and a device which allows the computer to process and possibly alter what the user sees. That which the user looks at is processed by the EyeTap. This allows the EyeTap to, under computer control, augment, diminish, or otherwise alter a user’s visual perception of their environment, which creates a Computer Mediated Reality.
This aesthetic, this cyborg vision is, for Manovich, a “realistic representation of human vision in the future when it will be augmented by computer graphics.” Not “if,” but “when.” And as we slowly creep our way into the future, as wearable computers proliferate, as reality becomes “Computer Mediated Reality,” as we slowly blog and Facebook and Google ourselves into existence, we step closer and closer to this future, closer and closer to realizing our cyborg dreams.